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How Long?

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When will it snow, Mommy? Can we watch a Christmas movie and drink hot chocolate tonight? Is that package for me? How many days left until we open presents?

The Christmas season is packed with expectancy. From the moment the first scent of leftover holiday cheer is release from the storage box, everyone in the home looks forward to the culmination of these joyful few weeks. Christmas is coming!

As theologically-minded parents, we have the opportunity to use that feeling of anticipation to teach our children one of the most major themes of Scripture which is the presence of God with man.

In the beginning, the Creator designed a perfect garden, with perfect foliage, perfect animals, and perfect food in which He walked in perfect relationship with Adam and Eve. That communion was tragically broken with their sinful rebellion, but the story didn’t end there. Genesis 3:15 says, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Something was coming to resolve this curse, but it wouldn’t be as immediate as this first family may have suspected. 

The entire Old Testament traces the suspense surrounding the wait for a permanent resolution to this sin problem. God instructs his people to build the tabernacle and later the temple as dwelling places for His Presence. God’s relationship with his chosen people came at the price of sacrifice after sacrifice, year after year.

A small child may feel like the days leading up to Christmas are endless. Each seems to drag as she waits patiently for the hope promised to her. In a similar and even more significant way, Israel longed for the arrival of their Rescuer. How long would God wait to fulfill his long-standing promises?

“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.”

In His perfect, never early, never late timing, the Father set into motion the answer to His covenant with mankind.

“And the Word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

God himself would now tabernacle with his Creation. Jesus would be both the High Priest and the Sacrifice necessary to complete the plan set in motion in Genesis. When He returned to Heaven, he would send the Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of the redeemed. The Church is now a living temple for the presence of God.

But, we’re still waiting. There’s more to come.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

What a breaktaking description of the end of the story! We live in anticipation for all to be made new. We look around at our broken world and ask, “How long?” but we can wait with hope. Just as a small child confidently knows that there will be gifts under the tree on December 25, we as believers cling to the fulfillment and resolution that is surely coming with Jesus’ return.

The celebration of Jesus’ birth is a chance for our families to wonder at the greatest Gift ever given and prepare for the final chapter of God’s story yet to come!

Immanuel, God is with us!

 

 

 

Why every mom should study Revelation

This past summer, I finished up the first half of a study in the book on Exodus, and while I plan to finish the second half eventually, I felt compelled to skip to the last book of the Bible, Revelation. Because so many controversies and questions surround those final chapters of Scripture, I was hesitant to dig in. What if I didn’t understand the apocalyptic language? Would it be a waste of my time? Maybe I should just stick to more approachable books!

I couldn’t shake the fact that it would be a great time to study the coming judgment with Egypt’s plagues fresh in my mind so I began by listening to the audio version on my phone as I cooked and cleaned around house. I found myself stopping in the middle of my chores, captivated by the descriptive picture John paints about the future of our world. I was thrilled to find that my husband owned a copy of Dr. James Hamilton’s commentary on Revelation.  I could use it to clarify some of the verses that still stumped me.

At the time I am writing this, I am a bit more than half way through the book and have been struck over and over again by beautiful gospel themes that have brought a new purpose to my living. I am convinced that every busy mom needs to study Revelation.

Here’s why:

1. Revelation offers a bigger perspective on mundane concerns.

Meal prep, laundry, kindergarten reading homework – a mom’s day-to-day life is full to the brim with the mundane. Repetitive tasks can make the most resilient of mothers want to lose her mind. Worries about money, educational choices, and car repairs run through our distracted minds all day long. Revelation offers a bigger view. It’s impossible to read about trumpets, seven headed dragons, and eternal rejoicing without seeing that God is coordinating something much greater than my little daily problems.

2. Revelation reminds us that the mundane matters.

God is the master story weaver. Nothing escapes His attention or care. This is true even when we label our lives as “boring” or “unimportant.” Think of it this way. Our call as humans is to be image bearers of our God. This has been true ever since the Garden of Eden. While we fail often at reflecting His glory, goodness, and love, the daily responsibilities we accomplish bring organization to an otherwise chaotic world. In that, we are bearing God’s image just as he created order out of nothing in the beginning.

Our mundane duties also have a future purpose. Courtney Reissig explains it this way in her book, Glory in the Ordinary.

“Our work is preparing us to rule and reign with Christ in a new earth, where the curse is gone, and we will work for God’s glory, always.”

I might scrub the dirty skillet little harder or complain a bit less about the smelly trash when I think about the eternal objective of my work. What I practice now will be used forever!
It’s not just our work that matters, however. He is using the interactions, struggles, and joys I experience each day to further the reach of His kingdom. In other words, my story is combined with your story to complete His story.

3. Revelation gives us a renewed sense of Jesus’ glory and power.

A thousand things demand our attention during a twenty-four hour period. It can be hard to know which task or person should receive the focus of our limited time and energy. I reach the end of most days exhausted and uninspired, and I’m sure you can relate. Before long, our obedience is fueled by guilt and duty, and we find ourselves mindlessly plugging away with no passion or excitement. We turn to our phones or computers for comfort and encouragement, but instead find comparison and conflict.

Revelation begins with a description of Jesus in chapter 1. John says He was clothed in a long robe with a golden sash around his chest. He had white hair and eyes like fire. His feet were like “burnished bronze” and his voice roared like many waters. Can you imagine seeing your Savior like this? John immediately fell at Jesus’ feet at the sight of His glory. His power is overwhelming and His love is immeasurable, yet the next words recorded are, “Fear not!”

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross, we do not have to fear the judgment of a holy God. Because Jesus overcame our slavery to sin, we can obey the call to faithful living in these last days. James Hamilton describes this passage,

“The incomparable glory of the risen Christ motivates John’s audience to heed what John has been commissioned to write. The matchless splendor of Heaven’s King attracts the attention and compels the obedience of the churches John addresses. The risen Christ in glory summons forth obedience from his churches.”

The book of Revelation causes us to wake up from the apathy of mindless Christianity. It renews our hope in an ultimate victory against Satan and his followers. It comforts us in the midst of deep suffering, and gives a greater calling to pursue.

We can rejoice and obey on even the most difficult days of motherhood because of the words proclaimed in Revelation 11:15:

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

Amen.

Losing My Mind to Save My Body

“If you lost 5 more pounds, you’d look perfect.”

It’s funny how a string of words said in passing, can be remembered so clearly almost twenty years later. I was standing outside with my circle of friends before another day of 11th grade classes began. I had been bemoaning the fact that I still wasn’t at my goal weight after months of dieting when Jack decided to insert himself into the conversation. He actually meant to encourage me, but his comment left me defeated. Obviously, I still wasn’t quite skinny enough. So I determined in my heart that I would lose that weight even if it meant starving myself.

I had become slightly overweight in my early high school years. Dr. Pepper, pizza, and peanut butter cups have that effect on the body. I was definitely healthier after losing thirty-five pounds, but the number on the scale began to consume me. I savored comments about how great I looked, and I was filled with pride when I could easily wear my best friend’s size 4 skirt on our senior trip.

My weight had become my identity.

I find myself struggling with this same identity crisis even now as a 33-year-old mom of three. I obsess over eating plans and cleanses on Pinterest. I have attempted low carb, high fat, and restricted calorie diets. I focus on difficult workout programs promising to change my “problem zones.” I research the benefits of exotic super foods that can still be readily purchased at my local Aldi store, of course. I feel unstoppable when I lose a couple pounds and devastated when the scale creeps back up to where I began.

Ironically, all that energy spent on myself doesn’t do much on the outside. I don’t look extremely fit or grossly overweight. I simply appear average.

The truth is, I’m losing my mind while trying to save my body.

My theology tells me that I’m not alone. In fact, I have all creation on my side. All of us – plants, animals, humans – are groaning together for the day when this unattainable struggle for perfection is over. In fact, each time I look in the mirror or step on the scale, I am reminded of the “already, not yet” tension that exists until Christ’s second coming.

This past week was a hard health week for me. I am battling exhaustion, headaches, and of course, weight gain. At this point my blood work shows no warning signs. While this should be a good thing, I’m left with symptoms with no answers.

During this time, I came across Paul’s words in II Corinthians 5…..

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight.

The annoyance and anxiety we have over undiagnosed diseases and stubborn weight are more than symptoms of the curse. They are also a reminder of what is to come.

My body now is currently a product of the dirt. God miraculously formed Adam from the dust of the ground and each of us returns to that ground when our body dies. The cycle of life points to the effects of sin upon us all. But, that’s not the whole story.

Jesus broke sin’s curse when he conquered death. His triumph was the start of a brand new creation. Paul tells us that those who have put their trust in Christ’s rescue share in that new start. The old burden of sin is gone and the new has come. Just like we have received forgiveness and grace for our sins, we have been guaranteed a brand new, perfectly working physical body. The Holy Spirit, who indwells all believers, is a seal of that promise.

I’ve still been wrestling with what to do in the meantime.

It is important to fuel my body with healthy food and strengthen it with regular exercise, but my health isn’t meant to be my god.

It’s nice to fit into my favorite jeans, but can I still effectively fulfill my calling at one size larger?

Fitness and nutrition motivation from others is great, but comparison usually follows close behind.

How can I take care of this temporary dwelling while waiting for my new one?

I know that my identity rests in Jesus not the scale and my acceptance is not in my workout regimen, but in His finished work at the cross.

The tension between what is and what is to come is infuriating at times, but it must point my eyes to the Eternal One who holds all things together (including my imperfect body.) I must cling to the certain hope that this broken tent will be gone very soon.

Until then I live by faith, not sight.

One Dollar Bill {a Christmas reflection}

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My request wasn’t new. As he’s gotten older, I often instruct my son to hold the door for strangers as we are out and about. He dutifully props the door open until the last person has passed.

This time was different. One of the shoppers was an elderly woman accompanied by her adult daughter. As they got closer to the door, I heard her exclaim, “Look at this nice young man holding the door for us!”

She fumbled through the items in her hand, rustling through receipts and coins until she located a $1 bill which she handed to my son with words of gratitude.

I was surprised at this woman’s act of kindness, but understood her desire to reward my son for his “good behavior.” It never occurred to me that my son wouldn’t understand her gift.

“Mom, why did that lady give me a dollar?” he asked as he caught up to the rest of the family. He was bewildered that she would pay him for such a simple task. I explained that she was thankful for his help and wanted to show her appreciation before she left the store.

The interaction was soon forgotten and the money was spent on a box of Nerds to share with his brother and sister on the way home.

That was last week and I have yet to stop thinking about it.

The argument could be made that my son was deserving of the woman’s gift. He did something nice for her, so she did something nice in return. Many of our daily interactions follow a similar pattern. In fact, we keep a mental tally of the good and bad in order to balance it out with our responses.

Since she made a meal for me when I was sick, I need to make one for her when her baby arrives.

I can’t ask her to watch my kids because I might not be able to babysit hers in return.

She was totally stuck-up when I saw her at church yesterday, so I just won’t try to talk to her anymore.

We live our lives by the “tit for tat” rule.

Kindness for kindness.

Rudeness for rudeness.

Good for good.

Bad for bad.

When we as followers of Jesus act this way we are forgetting that this cycle is in complete contrast to the gift we were offered 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem and later at the cross of Calvary.

Romans 5:8 stops me in my tracks every time I read it –

….but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I was not “holding the door politely” when Christ sacrificed his innocent life for me. I was His enemy. I hated good and desired evil.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

Kindness for hatred.

Sacrifice for selfishness.

Good for bad.

I write through tears this afternoon as I sit overwhelmed at His merciful gift to me, an unworthy sinner. Although, I am often tempted to try, any repayment for this salvation is impossible. My good works are simply a small token of gratitude to the God of the universe who stooped down to rescue me.

He “held the door” for me AND gave me the reward He earned. This, my friends, is incredibly good news and as we finish out the Advent season, I pray that our hearts would understand once again the richness of the gospel of Jesus. His coming offers a peace, hope, and wonder that will last well beyond Christmas.

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15

 

Note to the reader:

My “wish” and prayer for you this season is that you will be overcome with the beauty of the eternal One who became man for you. May the realization of His eternal love and His eternal power over the circumstances of this broken world, bring you a peace that passes human understanding.

I will be taking the next few weeks to reflect on my Savior and rest with my sweet little family! I’ll “see” you in 2017!

Until then Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

On Fevers and Advent

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I gently separated her damp curls from her sweaty neck. Her cries had forced me out of bed just as I was falling asleep. It was obvious that the fever had tightened its grip on her little body and was planning to hold on throughout the night.

It had appeared suddenly after her nap earlier in the afternoon. She didn’t complain, but lay lethargically on her daddy’s chest until an early bedtime. Her toddler sparkle had been replaced by an indifference to the world around her.

There is not much a mother can do during these small battles with germs. I wish the maternal guidebook included a magic potion to relieve all the possible illnesses our children may contract during their years under our roof. I wish I could experience their symptoms for them leaving them healthy and carefree.

Instead, their small bodies must fight the germs on their own. They must build an immunity to disease. Their white blood cells must strengthen to fight off future viruses.
As a mother, I can only offer comfort, cool drinks, and tepid baths. I cannot take away their symptoms, but I offer my care as they battle the bug inside of them.

on-fevers-advent-1This stands in stark contrast to the deep spiritual illness we all contracted in the Garden. Each individual throughout history experiences the symptoms of a sin-sick soul. Our hearts hide hate, bitterness, and fear. We spread our infection through harsh words and self-serving choices. Human beings are unendingly capable to express evil in the most disgusting of ways.

We do not possess spiritual white blood cells that work to fight the disease of sin. We cannot defeat the depravity of our hearts. The diagnosis is grim.

Read these words from Scripture:

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:4

It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Romans 4:24b-25a

 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. I Peter 2:24

You have been healed. 

What was once dead is now alive. What was once broken is now whole. What was once damaged has been restored.

My prayer this advent season (which kicks off today, by the way) is for a renewed awe at the incarnation of God himself.  May my eyes see clearly the severity of my sickness and may my heart rejoice at the cure provided by Jesus. May my soul once again realize that its very life depends on the One who gave His so freely. May this Christmas season be filled with joy flowing from more than dazzling lights, Frank Sinatra, and plaid and velvet toddler dresses. May it celebrate the ultimate healing found in Immanuel, God with us.

Why brokenness matters

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One of the sad parts of full time ministry is the regular bombardment of bad news. Although, I’m rarely the first to know, I often hear stories of failed marriages, battles with cancer, struggles with sin, or even wayward children.

Brokenness is all around us. One minute into the evening news shows us the affects of sin from every part of the globe.
Unfortunately, that bad news doesn’t contain itself to other countries or even other churches. It’s readily available in our own living rooms and church pews.

So, the question has to be asked. If brokenness is so rampant, what are we supposed to do with it? Do we ignore it and put on a plastic smile? Do we take pride in it, because it makes us like everyone else? Do we simply ignore it?

Let’s take a look together at why brokenness matters in the life of the believer. 

why-brokenness-matters

  1. All brokenness brings pain. 

From medical diagnoses to adultery, the fractured pieces of our lives bring pain to both ourselves and those around us. It’s inevitable.

If a husband is diagnosed with a rare, incurable disease, his wife and children are also greatly affected.

If a wife is unfaithful to her spouse, the infection of that sin spreads to her children, extended family, friendships, etc.

The phrase “no man is an island” is particularly applicable here. Brokenness cannot stay contained to one person. Psalm 37:39 says,

“But all sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future for the wicked”

The first failure in the Garden of  Eden had gigantic repercussions. Included in the deception of the snake was a forgetfulness of the long stretching effects of sin. Eve was only thinking about her own opportunity for greatness and Adam was only intrigued by what God might be withholding from them through His “don’t eat” rule. Neither comprehended the pain that would be brought upon thousands of generations to come after a simple bite of fruit.

          2. All brokenness brings shame 

I can still smell the musty carpet in the church nursery turned 6th grade classroom. Mrs. Cook had just left the room with a warning to keep our mouths closed and our bodies in our chairs. Usually, the teacher’s pet, I didn’t initially plan on disobeying, but my best friend really needed to know the plans for our afternoon recess. I spoke a few words as quickly and quietly as possible before our teacher appeared in the doorway.

“Who talked while I was gone?” she asked as soon as she returned. About a dozen hands sheepishly lifted into the air which earned them the current classroom consequence. My hand was not one of them.

Immediately, my heart was filled with the heaviness of shame.

I had talked. I had disobeyed. I had sinned. And I deserved the full punishment for it!

The story has several other elements including a tearful admission and apology to Mrs. Cook three days later and the most beautiful illustration of forgiveness I had experienced in my short 11 years, but I will never forget the agony of guilt that followed me after my lie.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the last time I would experience shame after sin. It attacks us immediately after any failure big or small. It comes after eating one too many brownies to losing your cool with your four year old again. It can even rear its ugly head at unintentional brokenness. We experience guilt at our failure to solve world hunger and our lack of time to bring that new mom a meal.

Our shame causes us to hide just like Adam and Eve after their disobedience. Shame feels terrible so we sew together parts of our personality and lifestyle to cover the true state of our hearts. We act strong and unaffected by our brokenness, hoping that others won’t notice. We laugh at our failures while all the time cringing inside at our lack of perfection. We shift the blame to others to minimize our own faults.

Shame leaves us feeling hopeless which is why the next point is so important.

          3. All brokenness brings hope

The effects of sin in the world and in our own hearts, bring us to the end of ourselves. Our search to find strength and resilience inside consistently comes up short leading us to look to something bigger outside of ourselves.

It won’t be found in “Inspirational Books” section of Barnes & Noble and it might not be the verse your friends quote to you when you share your shortcomings and needs at small group, but it is the answer and hope to the brokenness surrounding each one of us.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

In the middle of verses depicting the desperation of human nature, we find a glorious hope in these few words. Adam and Eve had messed up and were hiding in their shame (as we can so easily relate). The Serpent seemed to have gotten his way and the beautiful life of the Garden was quickly wilting. God gives a glimpse of the future when a Rescuer, a Messiah, would come to bruise Satan’s head conquering Him and ending his dominion.

The Gospel Transformation Bible sums up the hope offered in the middle of this fresh brokenness:

Though the corruptions of sin quickly infect humanity, grace is displayed for Adam’s and Eve’s descendants (“offspring” or “seed”): there is a seed despite Adam’s and Eve’s sin ; there is a means to relate to God despite sin; there is protection for a murdered despite sin; there is warning of the corruption of sin and at the same time indication of the faithfulness of God to provide the “seed” for sinners. 

In other words, there is salvation in the shattered world we experience each day through sickness, sin, and corruption. The Second Adam restores the life that was lost to Satan and offers victory and peace. While we still battle the flesh and its evil effects, we will one day reign with Him as rulers over a once again perfect Earth.

Because of this hope, don’t downplay your brokenness. Don’t hide behind the facade of independence. Don’t wallow in your shame.

Instead rest in Jesus’ perfection. Hide in His work on your behalf. Rejoice in His victory.

Wait expectantly for the day when all brokenness will be replaced with unblemished wholeness forever.

On Cat Naps & Good Works

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“Mommy? Mommy? Oh! she’s sleeping!” came the little voice from outside my door before I heard little footsteps retreating down the hallway.

I had just laid down for a cat nap before preparing dinner and was grateful that he had decided to let me rest for a few minutes.

On Cat Naps & Good WorksMy momentary deep sleep was soon interrupted when he returned with a Spiderman blanket for my body and a clean washcloth to cover my feet. Seeing that I was cozy enough, he turned off the lamp on my bedside table and pitter-pattered out of my room once again.

He wasn’t done, however. Now that I was snug under the blanket, he determined that I would need some fresh air from the ceiling fan which he could not reach after several attempts at using my bed as a trampoline.

It was time to recruit help. Soon his older brother joined in Operation Help Mommy Sleep which resulted in bright ceiling lights shining in my sleepy eyes and frustration from the commander who whispered loudly, “You’re going to wake her up!”

The next step of his mission was to drag the oscillating fan from his bedroom into mine and attempt several different outlets before finding one that would work the best for his plan. I was incredibly grateful for the blankets he had so carefully placed over me when he turned the fan to its highest setting several inches away from my face. When goals his were finally accomplished he left the room with a whispered, “Good night, Mommy”

Needless to say, I got up from that rest time feeling far from refreshed. However, even though my eyes still felt heavy, my heart was full. In his four year old way, he had truly attempted to serve me. His gift was far from perfect, but I accepted it with joy (and quite a bit of laughter), because I know his heart toward me.

In quite the same way, the gifts and “sacrifices” I place at God’s feet are never perfect either. They so often come from a heart with misplaced motives and selfish desires. Even the good I do is tainted with sin. However, because of Christ’s perfect life and self-sacrifice, those imperfect acts of service are pleasing to Him.

As the Westminster Confession of Faith says:

“Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.” (Westminster Confession 16.6).

The fruit of my faith in a perfect Savior, is a sweet offering to God. 

The Liturgical Home {an interview with Allison Burr}

The Liturgical Home {an interview with Allison Burr}

I am so thankful for the many online resources provided by women who hold God and His Word in high regard. Allison Burr is one of those women. I have had the opportunity to follow her ministry for several months and was so excited to hear of her upcoming webinar series for moms like you and me.

I thought it would be great for you as my readers to catch a glimpse of her heart and passion for other women and theology so I contacted her with a few questions.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

I am a homeschooling mother to 4 children, ages 11 down to 3.  I have been married to Chris for 16 years, and last year we relocated our family from Minneapolis to Franklin, TN, so we are most decidedly northern transplants to the South.

The Lord, in his gracious providence, converted me to Christianity at the age of 27, a mere 6 weeks after I had given birth to my first child.  Mercifully, my husband was subsequently converted a few months later.  Our journey has been difficult and grace-filled, full of beauty and brokenness all at the same time.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (1)

Recently, I heard a seminary professor use this definition of theology, and I think it is spot-on for this conversation:  “All theology is the application of God’s word, by persons, to all areas of life.  Therefore, all theology must be pastoral.” He went on to say that theology is implicitly personal, comprehensive, intellectual, volitional, and emotional.

Working from that definition, we can see that our knowledge and understanding of God’s word as revealed to us through the Bible is practical; it has meaning and application to every single area of our lives, our minds, our wills, and our emotions.  So we are working out our theology every waking hour of our day.  The way we think about current events, feel towards our husbands, act towards our melting-down children, organize our schedules and homes, create our family culture, discipline our children, communicate with other women, control our wayward emotions — each of these reflects an outworking of what we believe to be true about God, and to whom our allegiance lies.

There is certainly a place for theologians in the pulpit and in the seminary classroom.  But just as critical to the Church (the redeemed people of God) are faithful theologians in the home — i.e., domestic theologians.  In many ways, I think, we have greater influence within the Church.  Our pastors (whom I love and thank God for) have direct access to my family 2 hours a week.  I, on the other hand, have direct access to my children 24 hours a day.  As such, my husband and I are their primary influencers.  What a glorious and humbling role He has given us within the home!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (2)

If you walk into any Christian bookstore (which I don’t often recommend), you will find a whole lot of sentimentalism and borderline heresy.  Sadly, much of it is specifically geared towards women. Somehow femininity has gotten all tangled up with a rubbish heap of soft-pedaled prosperity theology, with a sugary layer of sentimentalism as the pink bow. Now, praise God that there is a small but growing number of female Bible teachers who are faithful to expositing the word of God in substantial and significant ways.  But far too much of what is advertised specifically toward women (and therefore, what women are buying) is unhelpful at best and damaging at worst.  We don’t need self-help; we need a Savior.  And that Savior is found in the richness of the scriptures — not in someone’s 10 steps to a happier week.

Related to that major stumbling block, I think, is a widespread reluctance by women to read books and listen to sermons and lectures by (male) pastors and theologians.  My joke is:  Dr. Sinclair Ferguson (a favorite Scottish theologian) speaks half as quickly as I do and yet dispenses twice as much wisdom in every phrase.  So why listen to Allison Burr, when you can listen to someone who has spent a lifetime mining the riches of God’s word and meditating on the person and work of Jesus Christ?

What I am trying to say is:  just because you’re a woman (and I’m in the same camp here) doesn’t meant that we can only learn from other women.  I have joked that RC Sproul has taught me far more about homemaking than anyone else.  And has he ever specifically addressed the topic of homemaking? Nope.   Yes, Titus 2-style mentoring and teaching is critical for us as women. But there is so much more Bible to study, and God has created the office of pastor/elder to feed his flock. Let’s not neglect the importance of sitting under the preaching of your pastor every Sunday morning, and perhaps hunting down a great series or two on the internet to have queued up on your iPod for the next early morning walk.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (3)

First and foremost, I love, love teaching biblical truths and their wide application to my own children.  I am privileged to do that 7 days a week.  And there are always heap-loads of kisses and hugs and snuggles involved in the midst of it.  What could be better than that?

Secondly, I love to take hold of my status as a sub-creator (as JRR Tolkein puts it), and as fully participating in my status as a trinitarian creator (as Dorothy Sayers puts it) in my own home.  Don’t think there is value in creating a functional and beautiful mud room? Think again! You are creating, bringing forth, and applying the glories of a smooth schedule and organizational structure that brings beauty and order to the lives of your children.

Hesitant about trying to implement some habit-building amongst your crazy crew?  Don’t be! You will be giving them life, and life in abundance, when they learn to take hold of practices and habits that will help shape their childhood and their adult lives.  We mothers wield tremendous influence and power — let’s not waste it.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (4)

Last summer, I launched 3 podcasts: Cultivating the Kingdom (theology for women); The Straight Stick(practical application into family life); and Melody, Mystery & Mayhem (a family-oriented podcast full of stories, silliness, and songs).

In an effort to streamline my efforts, I converted The Straight Stick to a 60-second video-podcast, hosted on my Instagram feed and on my website.  This has given me the chance to include my kids in all the recordings and to learn how to speak “on point” in a much more efficient manner (something I will probably struggle with until I meet Jesus face-to-face!).

Just this week, we began recording new segments for Season 2 of Melody, Mystery & Mayhem podcast (to release the last week of August).  The Lord has graciously provided some very talented folks to help our family with this aspect of ministry for our 2nd season, and we are humbled and delighted to be working alongside some folks who will be new to the Melody, Mystery & Mayhem crowd!

As for Cultivating the Kingdom, I decided to push pause on interviewing theologians for a bit, and instead will be teaching live, online webinars.  I am offering 3 new webinars on 3 different theological topics.  I am exceedingly nervous and excited, and am continually praying that the Lord would grow me as a lifelong student of the Bible, and as a teacher who is ever faithful to the word of God.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (6)

As I just mentioned, each webinar course will address an entirely different topic.  The first course in September is “The Liturgical Home,” and I am using as a foundation the first half of James K.A. Smith’s book: You Are What You Love.  (You don’t have to read the book to take the course). This 4-session webinar will look at the Augustinian view of affection-forming (ordo amoris), how our habits shape our desires, what types of liturgies might already be present in your home, and how we as mothers have the gift of creating and implementing new liturgies that reflect the realities of the Kingdom of God.  And you might just want to take the course to find out what I mean by the word liturgy!  🙂

The second course will run 4 sessions in October and is called Building Foundations: Our Calling for the Younger Years.”  This is what I wish an older, wiser homeschooling Christian mother had told me 11 years ago, when I was a brand-new mother and a brand-new believer.  I knew nothing about everything, and so much of those early years were a disaster or much harder than they had to be.  My oldest is now 11 1/2, and my 4th child is 3 1/2, and so I am still in the thick of (imperfectly) implementing my theology in this area of child-rearing, but sometimes wisdom wrought the hard way is still worth sharing!

The third is a 3-part webinar entitled “Fear & Motherhood: Identity and Remembrances in Times of Crisis.”  Quite providentially, I scheduled this to land in the first weeks of November, in the midst of our upcoming presidential elections.  I have been asked countless times about handling fear as a mother (particularly as it relates to the cultural and political environment in which we find ourselves).  So I decided to dig deep into some long-dead theologians, and the book of Romans, in order to exhort my own soul — and the souls of any others who want to join me — about what it is we need to know, trust, and remember when our world seems like it is falling apart.

**The cost for each course is $15, but if you elect to sign up for all 3, there is a $10 bundle discount.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. (7)

TruthBeautyGoodness.net is the umbrella for all our other ministry endeavors.  You can find all the details there about podcasts, webinars, and any other resources I have created.


I’m so thankful for Allison and her heart for the gospel! Sign up for the Fall 2016 Classes HERE. You’ll be so glad you did!

 

Police Shootings & the Average American Mom

Our nation has been rocked again with the news of two men who were fatally shot in altercations with police officers and also multiple officers killed during a protest in Dallas. This kind of news brings deep sadness, outrage, and protests from those in their immediate community as well as the rest of us around the country.

I am not usually one to write pieces immediately after an event. Instead I read reports and reflections from those much wiser than me and pray quiet prayers in my heart for the families and lives involved in tragedies such as these.

Police Shooting&The Average AMerican Mom

Although my kids are young enough that they can be sheltered from stories like this, I couldn’t help but think, however, after hearing the news this week that the #blacklivesmatter movement has real implications for my own life as a stay-at-home mom. You see I think #blacklivesmatter, while an important hashtag, reflects a deeper theological truth that our children must realize as we train them in God’s Word.

The term imago dei is Latin for “the image of God”. Christians use it to succinctly describe the relationship between God and man explained in Genesis 1:27.  All humans reflect their Maker regardless of his or her physical characteristics. Our souls were created by an Almighty God to mirror His glory back to Him. Again various authors have written much more eloquently than I will, but this idea must be a part of the training of our children. In other words, because that other boy in my child’s Sunday School class was made in imago dei, he should be treated with kindness. Because my son’s little sister was made in imago dei, her worth in God’s eyes requires that he treats her with love and respect (even when she steals his favorite toy).

When our children learn the value of human life at a young age, their eyes will be open to the devaluing of human life in their society. Side note: this plays out in many more situations than police brutality. Abortion, abuse, and euthanasia are all sourced in a lack of appreciation of the worth of ALL human life.

I don’t have many solid answers for our nation’s violence issue. Shootings at nightclubs, schools, convenience stores, and even churches all point to the sad brokenness and sickness of a world ensnared by sin.

This is exactly why Jesus came. There was no one else who could begin the process of repair for people so lost and evil. While we don’t yet see complete perfection, it is coming! This our hope in the darkness.

In the meantime, may God burden our hearts as parents to instill in our children a deep love for their fellow human beings and a deep sense of responsibility to protect them when at all possible no matter the race, no matter the color, no matter the uniform, no matter the sin.

And may we never become numb to another soul entering eternity. May we pray for our neighbors who live in a very real fear for their lives. May we give them our support, prayers, and ultimately the hope of a soul Rescuer.

The gospel is for everyone. Period.

Where to turn when you’re out of strength…

Listenonitunes

Email subscribers, click through to the website to listen. 

“Just keep moving, Rachel….”

My sister had dragged me into exercising with her once again. While she still energetically ran in place, I begged her to let me sit down. My legs felt like jelly and I was sure I must be ready to pass out! I thought I might die!

“It’s okay if you don’t do the jumping jacks. Just walk in place instead. Whatever you do, don’t stop moving.”

Obviously, I survived that tortuous workout and several others over the years. I have followed the advice of many fitness gurus to “find my why” in working out. I know that my health is important to my family, so I never exercise because I really want to, but because I know it’s good for me.

Other than shaking quads and burning biceps, one of the biggest deterrents to regular exercise is the inevitable loss of energy. I usually start off determined and strong, but it never lasts. Shortly into the workout, my jumps are lower and my squats are higher. I want to be toned and healthy, but I convince myself, that I’m not strong enough to finish. I don’t have the power to push through the pain.

I know I’m not be alone in this stamina issue. Fitness companies offer pre-workout drinks and Pinterest is packed with links to pre-workout snacks. We all want to be able to push through and finish our workouts so we can experience the post-sweat high of accomplishment.

WhenYou'reOutofStrength

In the Bible, our call as believers to live both holy and loving lives is equated with physical strain too. The author of Hebrews penned these famous words, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”

Perseverance.

Stamina.

Resolution.

We are told in Scripture to run lives committed to Christ and free from unnecessary burdens or wrongdoing, but where do we find the energy to complete such a task? Any effort dependent on our own fortitude will never last. Our spiritual legs weaken and we struggle to catch a breath in between all the serving, giving, reading,and praying. We simply lack the energy to even jog on our own. We need nourishment for our exhausted spiritual muscles.

Now, this is only a short blog post and many have written entire commentaries on the book of Hebrews, but it is interesting to note that this well-known and much quoted verse in Hebrews comes after eleven chapters outlining the beauty and sufficiency of our Savior. The author takes his readers on a journey through Hebrew history, pointing to the innumerable ways that Jesus is better that the traditions and commandments they held so dear. Each chapter is full of doctrinal truths such as redemption, substitution, and sacrifice. In other words, it is the endurance of Christ that offers us sustaining hope as we run.

This is why the study of theology is so vitally important. Truly grasping the truths of the gospel and God’s story of redemption throughout time never stops with head knowledge. It always translates into the motivation to press on in our walk.

Consider these passages written by Paul.

“For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God,who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” I Timothy 4:10

“For this I toil, struggling with all HIS energy that he powerfully works within me.” Colossians 1:28

TheologyFuel

Christ is both the motivation and the strength for the work we are called to do. When I am enamored with Christ and His work, I am empowered to live a life that reflects Him to those around me.

In other words, Scriptural knowledge is of no help when we simply become spiritually obese. When we allow theological truth to do its work in our hearts (even when it’s painful), it becomes the fuel we need to continue steadfastly in the faith.